(CNN) -- Vincenzo Nibali was rewarded for a bold late move to win the second stage of the Tour de France in Sheffield Sunday and don the coveted yellow jersey.
The Italian champion was among a select group who had broken clear after a short but brutal climb on the outskirts of the Yorkshire city.
They included reigning champion Chris Froome of Team Sky, his chief rival Spain's Alberto Contador and the favorite for the stage, Slovakia's Peter Sagan.
But as they hesitated the 2013 Giro d' Italia winner put his head down and broke clear, never to be caught, holding a two second advantage over his chasers as he raised his arms in triumph at the finish.
It was enough to put the Astana rider in the overall lead, but the climbing form shown Contador and Froome served notice they have taken fine form into the three-week classic.
Nibali also believes he is a strong contender to be in yellow when the Tour finishes in Paris on July 27.
"I've always believed in my chances, I came here to do my best and with this win I think I've already shown a good sign," he told gathered reporters.
"Of course the Tour doesn't finish here, there's still a long way to go. I'm calm and confident."
Behind Nibali, Belgian Greg Van Avermaet and Michal Kwiatkowski of Poland took the minor places.
Kwatkowski's ride was some consolation for the Omega Pharma Quick Step team after key rider Mark Cavendish pulled out of the Tour before the start of the 200km second stage.
Cavendish suffered a dislocated shoulder and ligament damage in a high speed spill near the finish of the first stage in Harrogate Saturday.
"I'm devastated to be fair. I'm in pain as well," the former world champion told gathered reporters in front of the team's bus.
"I've got to go and get an MRI (scan) to see if it needs surgery, chances are it probably does. Unfortunately I'm likely to be out for a few weeks."
Cavendish crashed after touching wheels with Australia's Simon Gerrans and admitted the incident had been his fault as they battled for position in the final sprint.
"I tried to find a gap that wasn't there. I spoke to Simon after the stage, I asked if he was OK, and I also spoke to him on the phone later and apologized to him," added the 29-year-old Cavendish.
The "Manx Missile", he hails from the Isle of Man, was looking to add to his 25 Tour de France stage victories, targeting the opening leg and the flat third stage from Cambridge into London.
The likelihood that Cavendish would not start the second stage did not deter the hundreds of thousands of fans who watched the action in the county of Yorkshire, exceeding even the expectations of local organizers.
"I want to say to all the supporters at the Tour to enjoy it, it's going to be an incredible race. It was amazing to see the support that was out yesterday and I'm looking forward to watching it," he said.
German sprint star Marcel Kittel, who had been in yellow after taking the first stage, was unable to keep pace on the climbs of the second day, but is expected to feature strongly on Monday's third leg from Cambridge to London when massive crowds are again expected.